Shielded truth: the National Climate Assessment


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Heat spikes and wildfires are just some of the threats to our globe (/img)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | November 28th, 2018

The National Climate Assessment, released every few years, is typically not made public on one of America’s busiest shopping days.

And yet that’s precisely what happened over this holiday season.

Sparked by the Global Change Research Act in 1990, these assessments help track environmental changes in the US on a regular bases, providing Congress and the Administration with a clear idea of the threats our planet currently continues to be under.

This year, the assessment–a full 29 chapters–covers everything from the gradually increasing global temperatures to the forest fires devastating California.

A lot of facts presented in this report, all peer-reviewed and carefully collected, seem to contradict much of rhetoric coming out of the current Administration. And that’s very much why the assessment, which must, by law, be released, was forced to make its notes public on one of the few days where most of America would be turned towards shopping sites and mall sales.

There are decades of research backing up claims of climate change and global warming. The Earth is, on average, a temperature or two hotter, a tiny change that’s had a monstrous effect on local and global weather patterns.

Knowledge is our greatest weapon, and burying the truth under Black Friday deals is not going to help us win the battle against environmental damage.

The Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research has always tried to provide factual and useful information about the environment to the residents of Iowa with the Iowa Climate Statement.

Read the statement

Watch the video

On The Radio- Increasing global temperatures


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Kasey Dresser| November 26, 2018

This weeks segment looks at the effects of growing temperatures from 1901 to 2006. 

Transcript:

Average global temperatures will only continue increasing if nothing is done.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The average global temperature has increased between one point five and one point seven degrees Fahrenheit between 1901 and 2006. While a change of nearly two degrees over the course of a hundred years may not seem like much, the impact this change has is immense, and the consequences can be dire.

Warming in the Gulf of Mexico has increased rainfall especially in the Midwest, making flooding more widespread than in the past.

Heat waves are becoming hotter as well. A heat wave is defined as the five hottest days in a year. Iowa experienced a heat wave over the Memorial Day weekend this year, when temperatures averaged in the upper nineties.

As these changes occur, Iowans will need to invest more to adapt their buildings and storm water management systems to better prepare for more floods and the rising heat. The Iowa Climate Statement 2018 details some of these solutions.

For more information, visit iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E Mason.

Midwest school buses go electric


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Four states are using VW settlement money to replace old school buses with modern electric ones (flickr). 

Julia Poska | November 23, 2018

Four midwestern states have secured a total of $20,000 in funding for fully electric school buses and charging stations, funded through settlements with Volkswagen over a 2015 scandal.

Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan set aside $11, $3, $2.75 and $3 million respectively. The states learned about the importance of decreasing children’s exposure to harmful diesel exhaust fumes during the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s four-state electric schools tour.

School buses are a particularly good candidate for electrification because they idle in front of school buildings for significant periods of time before and after school, releasing a high concentration of emissions in those areas full of children. According to The Lion Electric Company, one maker of such buses, converting one traditional bus to electric keeps 23 tons of greenhouse gases out of the air.

At about $300,000 each,  an electric school bus costs about three times more than a traditional diesel one, according to the ELPC, but savings on diesel and maintenance can total about $12,000 annually. Still, these funds will only provide buses to a few districts in each state.

Reduce food waste at your Thanksgiving feast


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Give thanks for your food by making sure it’s eaten or disposed of responsibly (flickr).

Julia Poska | November 22, 2018

Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of food produced and sold in the U.S. goes to waste, according to varying estimates. Some is cooked but uneaten. Some goes rotten in the fridge. Some never makes it off the grocery shelf, and some never even makes it off the farm field.

Food waste is not only a disservice to the hungry, but a disservice to the planet, too. All food, from carrots to highly-processed cookies, is organic matter, which requires oxygen to decompose properly. In a densely compacted landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen, and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The considerable water and energy resources used to produce food are wasted as well when food goes in the landfill. Nearly 250 gallons of water go into just two 15 oz cans of corn. Over 2,000 gallons of water go into just two pounds of poultry, which includes the water used to grow food for the birds.

Be conscious of food waste this Thanksgiving by following these three tips.

1. Pace yourself

On a day reserved for overeating, it can be tempting to load up your plate with several servings at once. While eating is the best way to reduce food waste, when you eventually reach your limit, what is left on your plate will most likely go in the trash. Take only what you are certain you will eat, and go back for more as many times as you need. When you finish, your plate will be clear and leftovers will be prime for saving.

2. Actually eat your leftovers

If you anticipate having leftovers, be sure to account for them when shopping at the grocery store. You won’t need to buy as much food the weekend if Thanksgiving dinner will be making a reprise. If you still have more leftover than you think you will need, send it home with guests or even share it with pets. You can also freeze individual portions in airtight containers or bags to be eaten for weeks after the holiday.

3. Give scraps new life

Most food waste can be composted! See dos and don’ts here. If the host does not keep a compost bin or use a pickup service, someone else in attendance may be willing to take scraps home in a garbage bag or large container. Check with your city’s waste management department to see if they accept cooking oil for recycling (especially if you are frying a turkey!), which can be used to create biofuel.

 

 

On the Radio- Green infrastructure key to keeping urban flooding at bay


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Green roofs are a type of green infrastructure (flickr).

Julia Poska | November 19, 2018

This week’s segment looks at flood mitigation approaches that incorporate nature into city design.

Transcript:

As Iowa’s extreme rain events intensify over time, flood management considerations will need to expand beyond river floodplains.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Floods commonly occur when rivers swell over their banks, but flooding can happen far from river systems, too.  Urban flooding occurs when drainage systems fail to move large amounts of storm water away from developed areas quickly.

According to the Iowa Climate Statement 2018, scientists forecast that daily rainfall in Iowa’s most extreme rain events will double by midcentury, meaning cities and towns will have even more water to manage.

One solution is to replace areas of impermeable concrete and asphalt with green infrastructure. These swaths of soil and vegetation absorb and slow down water to process it more naturally and reduce flooding.

Green infrastructure can be incorporated into sidewalks, buildings, backyards and even parking lots. Rain gardens, bio-swales, green roofs and more bring plants, soil and mulch into community design in attractive and helpful ways.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

 

 

Hurricane Harvey worsened by Houston skyline


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The buildings of Houston made the floods it experienced last August more intense, a new study found (flickr). 

Julia Poska| November 16, 2018

Houston can partially blame the unprecedented flooding it experienced during Hurricane Harvey last year on its skyline. A new study co-authored by Gabriele Villarini, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering at the University of Iowa, found that Houston’s topography exacerbated Harvey’s rainfall.

Researchers obtained data on rainfall and water discharge in Houston during the storm from various national agencies, and compared it to a computer model that simulated the same storm with a twist. In the model, the city of Houston was replaced with undeveloped farm fields to calculate the built environment’s effect on the storm’s behavior.

The analysis concluded that urban development in the Houston area increased the likelihood of intense fooding 21 times during that particular storm. In other words, if Houston were really an expanse of farmland instead of a city, less rain would have fallen.

“The buildings stop the air from being able to move forward, away from the ocean,” co-author Gabriel Vecchi from Princeton told NPR. “They sort of stop the air in that general area, and the air has nowhere to go but around the buildings, or up.”

Vecchi said when tall buildings push air farther upwards, the amount of atmospheric water vapor that condenses into rain increases. Houston’s skyline not only stalled the storm, but squeezed more rain out of it.